MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Government Mulls Freeport Resumption / FBI Freeport probe

Published by MAC on 2003-12-09


Government Mulls Freeport Resumption

Laksama.Net, Jakarta

December 9 2003

The government is still considering US-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's request to resume full operations at its giant Grasberg mine in Papua province.

The mine has been partly closed following a landslide that killed eight Indonesian workers in October. The government has since been investigating claims that overproduction and managerial negligence caused the disaster.

Another deadly accident occurred on November 29, when two workers suffocated in a tunnel conveying ore from the mine to refining facilities.

Suryatono, director of engineering at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, on Wednesday (3/12/03) said it could take a while to respond to Freeport's request, as meetings need to be held before a decision can be reached. "We need time to evaluate their request," he was quoted as saying by OsterDowJones.

He said representatives of the ministry were due to meet with the mine's technical manager on Thursday and would seek an assurance that "everything will be safe and hopefully, there will be no more accidents".

Following that meeting, the representatives will hold further talks and then submit a report to the ministry's geology and mineral resources director general Wimpy Tjetjep, who was in Switzerland last week for a World Trade Organization meeting.

Freeport says it has completed recovery efforts related to the October landslide and is ready to resume normal operations pending governmental approval.

In a press release on Wednesday, the company said the latest accident occurred when ore containing previously unencountered concentrations of elemental sulfur released fumes in an underground tunnel. The fumes caused asphyxiation in two workers, while several others were injured.

Freeport expects the October accident will cause this year's sales of copper to fall from a projected 1.4 billion pounds to 1.33 billion pounds, while gold sales are likely to fall from a projected 2.6 million ounces to 2.45 million ounces.


FBI Resumes Freeport Probe

Laksama.Net

December 7, 2003

Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will this week resume their probe into last year's murder of two Americans and an Indonesian near the huge Freeport gold mine in Papua province.

Unidentified gunmen on August 31, 2001, ambushed two vehicles carrying mostly teachers from Freeport's Tembagapura International School, killing Americans Ted Burgon and Ricky Spier and their Indonesian colleague Bambang Riwanto. Eight others were wounded.

Papua Police initially concluded members of the Army's elite Special Forces (Kopassus) may have been involved in the killings. Those police were subsequently removed from the case. The military carried out a new investigation and absolved itself from any wrongdoing.

Sources allege that members of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) were behind the attack in an effort to extort more protection money from Freeport, but the military has strongly denied any involvement and initially blamed the killings on poorly armed Papuan separatist rebels.

The US government has decided not to resume International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds to Indonesia until effective measures are taken to prosecute those responsible for the ambush.

FBI agents began investigating the killings last year but complained of a lack of independent access to witnesses and evidence. Cooperation was improved after US President George W. Bush told President Megawati Sukarnoputri he wanted foreign agents involved in the investigation, as had happened after the October 2002 Bali bombings.

So far the FBI investigators have not yet publicly blamed any particular group for the Freeport killings, keenly aware that the Bush administration wants to keep Indonesia on its side in the "war on terrorism".

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday (4/12/03) said the returning FBI team is expected to bring the results of the forensic investigations into several pieces of evidence. He also said the team would work closely with Indonesian police.

Meanwhile, TNI commander General Endriartono Sutarto expressed hope the FBI agents would be able to resolve the case. "Principally, we want the truth to come out. If there is no involvement, say there is none. If there is TNI involvement, say there is," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. Timah Profit to Soar State-controlled tin miner PT Tambang Timah has forecast its net profit for 2003 will surge to Rp80 billion ($9.4 million) from Rp11.28 billion in 2002, largely due to increases in world tin prices.

Company president Thobrani Alwi said international tin prices averaged $4.758 per ton in the third quarter of this year, up from about $4.10 a year earlier.

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